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Transformation of a border region
The first step is the hardest
The German occupation of Denmark ended on 5 May 1945. At the end of the war, about 240,000 German refugees from the German eastern territories were in Denmark – a huge economic burden. The total costs amounted to about 428 million kroner. It was not until the end of 1949 that the last war refugees left Denmark.
New sense of “Danishness”
In 1945, the Danish Prime Minister Vilhelm Buhl (1881-1954) announced that Denmark’s borders were clearly established. However, this view was not shared by all Danish politicians. Their call for a border revision attracted plenty of support. It was backed by the Southern Schleswig Association (Südschleswigscher Verein / Sydslesvigsk Forening), the membership of which had grown to 75,000 registered members by May 1948.
One reason for the shift towards “Danishness” was that 1.2 million people had sought refuge in Schleswig-Holstein by the end of 1946. The population almost doubled in size. Besides the frequently experienced solidarity, many in Schleswig-Holstein were also afraid of the influx of “foreigners” and saw a threat to their own identity.
In the hunger winters of 1945/46 and 1946/47, the term “Speckdänen” became established in large parts of the population. This derogatory term assumed that some of the so-called “new Danes” had only turned to Denmark because they hoped to receive food parcels from the northern neighbour. As of today, we can say that the assumption was incorrect, as the leaning towards “Danishness” can clearly be attributed to a wide range of reasons.
01) The overview headed “Refugees in Schleswig-Holstein” of the Regional Statistical Office of 1950 shows how many refugees and displaced persons came to Schleswig-Holstein after World War II. It also illustrates that most fled from the eastern territories during World War II or because they were afraid of the Soviet occupation after the war. The “snapshot” shows that more than 1.1 million persons fled to Schleswig-Holstein, mainly in 1945 and 1946. As a result, the population of Schleswig-Holsteins grew by almost 1.6 million to 2.7 million from 1939.
The end of the border debate
From 1947, social democrats were back in power in Denmark. In agreement with the British occupying power in Schleswig-Holstein, they did not question the existing German-Danish border. A conference in London in 1948 about the future of the southern part of Schleswig concluded that shifting the boundary could not create lasting peace in the border territory and that instead guaranteed rights had to be created for the national minorities on both sides of the border.
As a consequence, the British government urged negotiations between Denmark and Schleswig-Holstein. The external circumstances were certainly favourable. In view of the signs of the impending Cold War, the Danish side realised that secure borders and reliable partners played a significant role in national security.
In 1949, the Federal Republic of Germany was established. Schleswig-Holstein was also supposed to have a new regional constitution. However, it required the approval of the British. This was a further reason for the Schleswig-Holstein government to enter into negotiations with representatives of the Danish minority.
01) “Say when” – The cartoon of Arne Ungermann appeared in the Danish daily newspaper “Politiken” on 14 September 1946. “John Bull”, which had personified Britain for centuries, asks “Mother Denmark” where he should draw the German-Danish boundary. In fact, at that time the majority of the Danish-minded population in Schleswig-Holstein wanted the region to become part of Denmark. This calls on British diplomacy, as the occupying power after World War II, to act as intermediary.
Policy of pinpricks
Repression instead of representation
The practical implementation of the Kiel Declaration of 1949 did not proceed as desired in the subsequent years. The Danish minority in Southern Schleswig felt that the conservative regional government discriminated against them. From 1951 to 1954, Minister-President Friedrich Wilhelm Lübke (1887-1954) pursued a policy of “pinpricks”. He demanded a declaration of loyalty from the Danish minority and succeeded in raising the voting threshold for entry into parliament in regional elections from 5% to 7.5%. The German Border Association (Deutscher Grenzverein) was also established as an instrument to disseminate and preserve German culture in the northern part of the federal state in contrast to Danish culture.
Political representation in the Kiel Parliament became a key problem for the Danish minority. In 1953 and 1954, the German voters in Northern Schleswig sent one representative to the Danish parliament with 12,000 votes. On the German side, 42,000 votes were cast for the representatives of the Danish minority, but they were unable to claim one single seat in the regional parliament (or in the Bundestag, the national German parliament).
01) The photo shows Friedrich Wilhelm Lübke (1887-1954) during the speech to mark the laying of the foundation stone in front of the planned building of the Sankelmark Grenzakademie on 17 June 1951. Lübke (CDU) was the minister-president of Schleswig-Holstein from 1951 to 1953 and chairman of the German Border Association. The invited public can be seen in the foreground. Schleswig-Holstein flags can be seen fluttering in the background. Photo cropped.
The border question is decided at the highest level
It was only under the new Minister-President Kai-Uwe von Hassel (1912-1997) and his commitment to the Kiel Declaration that a solution to the conflict was found. New geopolitical reasons such as the Federal Republic of Germany’s impending entry into NATO led to concrete negotiations between Copenhagen and Bonn, which also affected Southern Schleswig. As a result, the Danish foreign minister H. C. Hansen (1906-1960) and Chancellor Konrad Adenauer (1876-1967) signed the Bonn-Copenhagen Declarations in 1955. Although the declarations were independent, they were largely identical and gave commitments to the national minorities on the north and south of the border regarding their basic rights and privileges. The problem of political representation was also resolved in the wake of the Bonn-Copenhagen Declarations. The Southern Schleswig Association of Voters (SSW) was explicitly exempted from the 5% electoral threshold in 1955 and has been represented in the Schleswig-Holstein Parliament since then.
The model has proven itself
Today, Denmark and Schleswig-Holstein are closely linked. The minorities in the border region act as bridge-builders. The activities of the German and Danish minorities add to the cultural and linguistic variety of the German-Danish border region. The minorities have their own educational facilities and publications, perform church and social work, and offer sporting and cultural activities in clubs.
01) Minister-President Hans Christian Hansen (1906-1960, left) and Chancellor Konrad Adenauer (1876-1967, right) at the signing of the Bonn-Copenhagen Declarations in Bonn on 29 March 1955. Photo: Sydslesvigsk Pressetjeneste. Photo cropped.
Tractor instead of horse and plough
The tractor was a symbol of the modernisation that began at the end of the 1950s. It enabled agricultural work to be carried out more independently and replaced the “horse and cart”. However, in 1958 a tractor cost 10,000 deutschmarks – a huge investment for many farmers.
The transformation in farming was reflected not only in such investments, but also in the increase in areas under cultivation. This led to a dramatic fall in the number of farms. More and more smallholders gave up, while large farms grew in size. This trend has continued to this day. The mid-1950s saw the first “factory” livestock farms in Schleswig-Holstein and intensive farming became increasingly prevalent. Selective breeding also considerably raised yields. Overall, the trend towards specialisation in farming began at that time.
01) Two children pose in front of a “Deutz Fahr D180H” (24 HP) in the photo from 1958. For many farmers at that time, the tractor was a status symbol and a popular subject for family photo albums. Tractors enabled farmers to perform the daily work on farms faster and more efficiently. Besides being able to perform many crankshaft-driven tasks, tractors gradually replaced the traditional and idyllic use of horse and cart.
This is not a youth hostel
Scheersberg: An international educational centre
“The mountain”, the name given to Scheersberg by employees and visitors, is indeed one of the highest elevations in Angeln (70 m above mean sea level) and has been a destination for excursions by the local population since then. Following the inauguration of the Bismarck Tower (1903) and the construction of the Wallroth House (1927), Scheersberg became an increasingly attractive venue. From 1921 to 1933, the Nordmark festival was held each year on Scheersberg. Since 1947 up to this day, it has continued as the “Scheersberg Festival”.
The National Socialists interrupted the regular organisation of the traditional sports meetings for young people and used the venue for gatherings of their youth organisations in particular between 1933 and 1945. Under a contract with the district of Flensburg-Land, the facilities on Scheersberg were handed over to the Association for Adult Education and Libraries – known today as “Deutscher Grenzverein” – in 1948. In 1960, the youth hostel on Scheersberg was given the name “Jugendhof Scheersberg”. Over time it has developed into a centre for the cultural, social and political education of young people in Schleswig-Holstein. Its name since 2002 has been the “International Educational Centre Scheersberg Jugendhof”.
01) Scheersberg (from the south) can be seen in the distance with a rapeseed field in the foreground. The Bismarck Tower, which is also part of the logo of the International Educational Centre Scheersberg Jugendhof, is clearly visible. From left to right, the Guest House of Angeln, the Creative Centre and the Baltic Sea Forum with the hall can also be seen.
Whoever feels Danish is Danish
Freedom to show commitment to the national minority
The negotiations ended with the “Kiel Declaration” of 26 September 1949, in which the Schleswig-Holstein regional government expressed the wish to safeguard the peaceful co-existence of majorities and minorities – the Friesian minority was included in the Kiel Declaration. Important Danish wishes were satisfied and this remains the case up to the present day. The most significant article reads:
“The commitment to Danish national traditions and Danish culture is free. It may not be officially denied or tested.”
Every German may freely show commitment to Danish national traditions. It is further stated: “Everyone who wishes to be Danish is Danish”. The step towards accepting the Danish minority was a milestone towards social peace in the border country, although several difficult stages still had to be completed. The Kiel Declaration provided for a similar declaration to be proclaimed for the German minority in Sønderjylland (Northern Schleswig). However, the latter guarantee was not made until the Bonn-Copenhagen declarations of 1955.
01) The diagram shows the German-Danish border territory and a selection of place names in both languages, which can frequently be seen on signs: on the west coast, Friesian names such as Sylt = Sild or Söl; in Northern Schleswig, German names such as Haderslev = Hadersleben; in Southern Schleswig, Danish names such as Flensburg = Flensborg.
Graphics by Malte89 CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0), from Wikimedia Commons
From confrontation to understanding
On course for confrontation
The oldest border association in Northern Germany was founded as the Welfare and School Association for Northern Schleswig in 1919 in Sonderburg. After the referendum in 1920, Northern Schleswig was to belong to Denmark. The border association devoted its energies to supporting the German minority by maintaining German forms of education and carrying out cultural activities. Its work was halted by World War II. In 1946, shortly after the war, the administrative director of Flensburg-Land and later minister-president of Schleswig-Holstein, Friedrich Wilhelm Lübke (1887-1954) founded the Association for Adult Education and Libraries as successor to the Welfare and School Association for Northern Schleswig. The aim of the new association and its work under Lübke was to establish a clear counterpart to the growing Danish influence in Southern Schleswig. In 1949, the association was renamed the German Border Association for Cultural Work in Schleswig.
Border association as bridge-builder
In its current educational work, Deutscher Grenzverein e. V. seeks to promote understanding and trust in the German-Danish border region. It promotes the cultural, economic and political relations in Northern and Central Europe and helps young people and adults to assume responsibility in their social cultural and political environment.
To achieve these objectives, Deutscher Grenzverein operates the Scheersberg educational centre for young people, the North Sea Academy in Leck and the Sankelmark Academy.
01) The aerial photo shows Deutscher Grenzverein’s current office with the attached Sankelmark Academy. The Sankelmark Lake can be seen in the background. The Sankelmark Academy is one of three educational facilities forming part of Deutscher Grenzverein along with Nordsee Akademie Leck and the Scheersberg educational centre. Sankelmark Academy’s main focus is on adult education.
Transformation cannot be halted
It is worth taking a look at the landscape of Angeln. From the viewing platform, you can look over a wide area. Agriculture is increasingly being shaped by biogas and maize, wind and solar power, and large livestock buildings. Traditionally a farming region, Schleswig-Holstein retained its agricultural structures after 1945. Over the years, these have changed dramatically. Nevertheless, to this day nearly three-quarters of the area of Schleswig-Holstein is still used for agriculture.
Number of small and medium-sized holdings
Number of persons employed in agriculture in %
A family affair
Farming was still a family affair in the 1950s and 1960s. There were also farm labourers, who provided support in day-to-day work. In stark contrast to the situation in other federal states, most farmers in Schleswig-Holstein lived from agriculture and worked full-time.
01) Diagram 1 compares the total number of small and medium-sized farms in Schleswig- Holstein in 1945 and 2001. This clearly reveals a steady decline. Today, large and very large agricultural holdings still dominate the landscape of Angeln. The type of farming has also evolved. Intensive livestock farming, maize, biogas as well as wind and solar energy are also increasingly found in the landscape of Angeln.
02) Diagram 2 shows the percentage share of persons employed in agriculture between 1950 and 1990. The trend is similar to that seen in small and medium-sized farms – the share fell rapidly. From an employment perspective, agriculture became increasingly unattractive as a result of the rapid advance in modernisation and flight from rural areas. Over time, an ever greater area was farmed by fewer and fewer people.
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